Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 8:01 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
(1) Inauguration speech
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have been reappointed Minister for Foreign Affairs for the fourth Abe reshuffled Cabinet. It has been 400 some odd days since I was appointed Foreign Ministerlast August. During that time, I have visited a total of 73 countries and regions. At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly session, I have gotten to know my counterpart foreign ministers very well and this has facilitated our discussions on a range of matters.
While I have been Foreign Minister, I have been asked to co-chair the Ministerial Meeting on United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on the margins of the UN General Assembly session as well as the Aqaba Process Meeting on counter-terrorism hosted by His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan. Little by little, Japan has increased its presence in Middle East diplomacy in which I have sought to exert my efforts.
Mr. Taro Aso once likened Middle East diplomacy to Ginza 4-chome. I consider that Japan has evolved from a passer-by to opening a small shop in Ginza 4-chome. I will continue to proactively address the various diplomatic issues.
I will continue to focus on six areas which I have mentioned previously. First, we will strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance. The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the cornerstone for Japan’s diplomacy and security. Based on the unwavering Japan-U.S. Alliance, Japan will engage proactively to resolve the issues facing the region and the international community.
In particular, Japan and the United States will work closely to address North Korean issues.
Second, Japan will enhance relationships with neighboring countries, such as China, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and Russia.
It can be said that Japan and China have gotten back onto a “normal track” through the efforts of both sides. Prime Minister Abe will visit China in October. We expect that this visit will lead to concrete results and enhance the Japan-China relationship.
This year, Japan and the ROK mark the 20th anniversary of the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration. Against this background, we will further develop the bilateral relationship in a forward-looking manner while appropriately managing the issues between the two countries.
With regard to Russia, we will persistently negotiate based on our basic policy of resolving the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty.
Third, we will steadily promote free trade. We will work towards the entry into force of the TPP11 Agreement and the Japan-European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the full materialization of the reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in which there is a bit of discord. In addition, we will advance free trade agreements (FTAs) with small countries and regions, including the Faroe Islands.
Fourth is resolution of global issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has established the Advisory Panel of Experts on Climate Change and has undertaken proactive efforts on climate change. As was stated in Prime Minister Abe’s article contributed to The Financial Times ahead of the UN General Assembly session, Japan will take initiative in carrying out climate change diplomacy.
This year, in particular, there have been typhoons, heavy rain in West Japan, and flooding. Because of these weather conditions, many Japanese people now view climate change as their own issue. In this context, Japan will carefully examine how it should address climate change.
Japan will also make efforts to tackle such global issues as the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation, issues related to human security such as health and education, as well as contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Regarding Middle East policy, as I briefly stated at the beginning, we will actively engage in the Middle East, including politically. We will fully implement the “Four Principles,” including investment in people and enduring intellectual and human contribution.
Last is the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.” We will steadily establish a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law as a “global commons.”
This weekend, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) Ministerial Meeting and the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting will be held. Next year, Japan will host the G20 Summit and the TICAD summit meetings. There will also be enthronement ceremonies and the Rugby World Cup. There will be many opportunities for world leaders to visit Japan. MOFA will actively seize such opportunities to carry out Japan’s proactive diplomacy.
(2) TICAD Ministerial Meeting
Minister Kono: The Government of Japan, the UN, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, and the African Union Commission (AUC) will co-organize the TICAD Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo on October 6 and 7. At the ministerial level, we will confirm the implementation status of measures announced at the previous TICAD V and VI and hold discussions in preparation for TICAD7 to be held from August 28 to 30 of next year.
This will be the first TICAD Ministerial Meeting since last year’s meeting in Maputo, Mozambique. Since this meeting will be held in Japan, I have 20 some odd bilateral meetings currently scheduled to be held on the margins. While I expect that it will be physically demanding, I intend to make use of this opportunity to hold a successful TICAD meeting as well as strengthen Japan’s bilateral relationships with African countries and make further efforts to promote UN Security Council reform and address other international issues.
NHK, Ishii: I have a question regarding North Korea. In your opening statement, you stated that Japan and the United States will work closely on this issue. Meanwhile, following the Inter-Korean Summits and the UN General Assembly session, expectations are building towards denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea. What is your outlook for progress in denuclearization? Secondly, you held a meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of North Korea for 20 minutes in New York. Did the meeting mark a change in the progress of developments between Japan and North Korea? If you perceive that there was change, could you tell us what aspects have changed?
Minister Kono: Regrettably, there have been no concrete steps towards denuclearization since the historic U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting in Singapore. Against this background, the situation still remains that it is important for the international community to take a united response towards North Korea. Japan-U.S., Japan-U.S.-ROK, as well as six countries including China and Russia will work closely at a variety of levels.
Regarding Japan and North Korea, it is the policy of Japan to normalize relations by resolving our outstanding issues based on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. There is no change in this policy whatsoever. While a foreign ministers’ meeting was held for the first time in a while on the margins of the UN General Assembly session, Japan and North Korea constantly maintain communication through a variety of channels. Japan will continue to make steady efforts to materialize the Pyongyang Declaration.
Kyodo News, Fukuda: The Chief Cabinet Secretary was appointed the Minister in charge of theAbductions Issue. I believe the Foreign Minister will be in charge of the negotiations for resolving the abductions issue. Could you comment on how you intend to work with the Chief Cabinet Secretary on this issue?
Minister Kono: Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and I won our first elections at the same time, and we have worked together in various ways over the last 20 years since then. I do not think there is anything in particular to worry about regarding coordination between the two of us.
China Youth Daily, Zhang: I would like to ask two questions. This month, Prime Minister Abe plans to pay an official visit to China. What are Japan’s expectations for the outcomes of this visit? How should Japan-China diplomacy be carried out and implemented to ensure that the bilateral relationship is appropriate for a new era? Secondly, there has been a rise in trade protectionism in the world. Against this backdrop, will Japan, as the host country of the G20 Summit next year, continue to contribute to the stability and development of the economies and politics of the region and the world, while at the same time, demonstrating the strengths of Japanese diplomacy and leadership? I would appreciate if you could share your comments.
Minister Kono: The Prime Minister’s visit to China will provide a great opportunity to significantly advance the Japan-China relationship. It will be appropriate if a variety of agreements could be reached that significantly enhance the Japan-China relationship during the exchanges of views with the Chinese leadership, including a meeting with President Xi Jinping. It is important that the Prime Minister’s visit to China is followed by President Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan and that mutual visits between high-level officials continue to take place thereafter. I intend to seize various opportunities to visit China, and I hope Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi visits Japan on various occasions. The trade exchanges between the United States and China have become a global topic. Free trade was one of the building blocks that played a large role in the postwar world economic development, and it is clear that hindering free trade through various barriers does not benefit anyone in the international economy. The various trade disputes should be settled under the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework, and Japan hopes that the United States and China settle their disputes under the WTO framework.
Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster in Sulawesi, Indonesia
Japan Indonesia Economic Forum (JIEF), Susilo: Congratulations on your reappointment. Last week, an earthquake and tsunami struck Sulawesi, Indonesia. As of now, the number of casualties is 1,234. Following the earthquake, there has been looting and stealing. I would like to ask what form of assistance the Government of Japan would be providing in response to this disaster. In Japan, there are few cases of looting after an earthquake compared to other countries. Could you please provide advice on how to prevent looting?
Minister Kono: I would like to express my condolences over the disaster, which has resulted in over 1,200 victims, and extend my deepest sympathy to the many people who are affected. Since the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Government of Japan conveyed to the Government of Indonesia that we stand ready to provide whatever assistance that is necessary. Indonesia has requested assistance, and therefore, the two countries are coordinating to send assistance needed by Indonesia as quickly as possible. We are committed to ensuring that Japan’s assistance is useful for the people affected. Based on past disasters in our disaster-prone country, we, Japanese people, fully understand the importance of helping each other at the community level in times of urgency. We have helped each other whenever something occurred. I encourage the people of Indonesia to help each other in their communities whenever anything occurs. It is important to constantly foster such face-to-face relationships in the communities through various events and other means. The Government of Japan stands with the people of Indonesia as they recover from this disaster based on this spirit of mutual help and intends to fully support the recovery effort.
Minister Kono: If I may answer your second question first, there is no difference in view at all. With regard to your first question, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga will exercise leadership on domestic matters, and MOFA will take the lead within the Government in diplomatic negotiations and other matters. As I stated a moment ago, the Chief Cabinet Secretary and I maintain very good communication. The two of us will carry out these efforts in close consultation with each other.
Diplomacy of the Fourth Abe Reshuffled Cabinet
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I have two questions. The Prime Minister mentioned resolving the abductions issue by North Korea and the Japan-Russia relationship as important diplomatic issues of the Government of the fourth Abe reshuffled Cabinet. These efforts will involve a range of actors, including the Prime Minister’s Office. In this context, how do you intend to lead MOFA as Foreign Minister? My second question is, the Prime Minister stated during his press conference earlier that he asked you to remain as Foreign Minister because you are engaged in proactive diplomacy. With regard to the Indo-Pacific Strategy or other major Japanese foreign policies being promoted by the entire Government, what actions would you like to take, including overseas visits?
Minister Kono: In view of bringing postwar Japanese diplomacy to a conclusion, it is a matter of course that the Prime Minister noted the two remaining postwar issues, namely, concluding a peace treaty with Russia by resolving the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands and normalizing relations with North Korea. With regard to the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands, we shared the view that we will resolve the issue of the attribution of the four islands through developing a future vision between the two countries, including joint economic activities. Furthermore, North Korean issues include the abductions issue, and this issue will be addressed not only by MOFA but by the entire Government. MOFA will work to advance the negotiations with our counterpart countries based on our achievements so far.
In my capacity as Foreign Minister since August of last year, I have realized that as diplomacy ultimately involves the intervention of people, maintaining close communication with counterpart foreign ministers contributes to the smooth resolution of various issues. For example, the G7 foreign ministers struggled to reach an agreement for the joint communiqué with respect to the issue of the Muslim population in Rakhine State. I held talks with then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, and we discussed that Japan will be entrusted with the response to this issue until the G7 Summit. By the G7 Summit, Japan fulfilled its pledge that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be concluded and an Independent Commission of Enquiry would be established. As a result, at the G7 Summit, the G7 members were giving encouragement to Myanmar. The same can be said for the recent Ministerial Meeting on UNRWA. Japan was asked to be proactively engaged, and this has enabled Japan to comment on the Palestine issue on various occasions and take a variety of actions. I will continue to carry out Japanese diplomacy based on the achievements made thus far.
Japan’s diplomacy does not rely on the military at all. Furthermore, Japan’s total amount of official development assistance (ODA) has decreased significantly compared to the 1980s. Therefore, Japan’s diplomatic skills will be put to the test, not the military or monetary contributions. While MOFA and the Government of Japan will be at the forefront of Japanese diplomacy, it will become increasingly important that companies, NGOs, and the people play a role in Japan’s diplomacy. It is important that supports are provided so that various actors in Japan can take part in diplomatic activities and demonstrate their capabilities, rather than simply MOFA conducting diplomatic negotiations and diplomacy. In terms of climate change diplomacy, Japan Climate Initiative, a network of non-government actors, was established in Japan and has demonstrated considerable presence at international conferences. In such manner, MOFA will take initiative wherever possible, and when such efforts produce new initiatives, MOFA will support them in the international arena as well.
Women Ministers in the Fourth Abe Reshuffled Cabinet
Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: I would like to ask a question that is not directly related to diplomacy. Many note the fact that the number of women ministers in the Abe Cabinet has decreased to one. It is pointed out that there are very few women Diet members in the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) and Nagatacho to begin with. In the course of your diplomatic activities, you have seen that women have foreign minister or other ministerial posts in other countries. What is the difference between Japan and other countries? Could you please share any thoughts you may have?
Minister Kono: The G7 foreign ministers were invited to the recent Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Montreal, and I ended up being the only man who attended. As a result, I think the notion that “Foreign Minister Taro Kono of Japan is a good guy” spread among the women. After the meeting, I was asked to hold a bilateral meeting by a range of countries, and in a variety of instances they offered to provide various backups. In that sense, I am extremely glad that I attended the meeting. Japanese women play active roles on the front line of diplomacy overseas. At MOFA, I believe the percentage of women among recent university graduates joining MOFA has increased to 40%. That said, at international organizations, Japanese women far outnumber Japanese men. On my last night in New York, I exchanged views with Japanese personnel of international organizations. Japanese women personnel far exceed Japanese men personnel in number and are working hard. I do not know if this is because Japanese women think they would be able to better exert their strengths overseas than in Japan or because Japanese men are inward-looking. At the very least, people overseas are fully aware that Japanese women are working hard on the international stage. As for MOFA, we will work hard to ensure that Japanese women diplomats can fully demonstrate their skills. In recent years, the issue of child rearing, education and caregiving for elderly family members has begun to receive attention in all of Kasumigaseki. Work-style reform in all of Kasumigaseki is an urgent matter. Fortunately, there are still many motivated and forward-looking women who are eager to join MOFA. It is, however, uncertain how long this will last if the current situation in Kasumigaseki continues. Work-style reform in Kasumigaseki is an issue that must be tackled by the entire Government and the Diet, and I intend to fully address this issue.